A new ruggedised RISCOS computer, the Solo is intended for use within Third-world countries where its ultra-low-power design enables it to be used indefinitely away from sources of mains electricity.
See also the new Solo pages with pictures of the Mk II prototype.
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Solo is a transportable rather than a portable computer. It is designed for ease of relocation within harsh and demanding environments, and may be supplied in a variety of configurations and screen sizes.
The production units will be a single-box design with the LCD screen in front of the computer motherboard. The entire device will be solid state,
incorporating a derivation of RISCOS in ROM, applications in Flash RAM and the usual RAM for workspace.
The prototype Solo uses a meagre 17 Watts of power including the LCD screen, but despite employing a small disc drive unit and using a power-hungry analogue-signal driven monitor, which squanders a further 5 Watts.
The final design of Solo will use a digital screen interface and is expected to draw only 8.5 Watts including other power-saving refinements. These will permit it to be run from a single 10W solar panel, and still leave a little spare to charge a battery.
Other power sources tested so far include:-
At 81/2 Watts, Solo's power supply requirements compare favourably with a full desktop RISCOS computer, the lowest powered unit currently being the RiscStation, which draws about 40 Watts including hard-disc and CD (plus screen, which is integral on the Solo). Even this is minute compared with a typical full Pentium PC system (incl monitor) at around 500 W.
The Solo complies with the aspirations of the signatories of the Earth Summit in Rio, 1992, which pledged the greater use of sustainable energy sources. Agenda 21 was the significant outcome of the Rio Summit which created a global action-plan to reduce global warming and promote bio-diversity.
Whilst many Western countries have yet to comply with their obligations under the Agenda 21 agreement, the lack of sufficient power to run thirsty IT equipment is a serious brake on technological development in developing countries. Solo will alleviate this restriction, whilst simultaneously permitting complience with Agenda 21 on the part of the Developing World.
However, as this page is written, large parts of Silicon Valley in the USA are under rolling power-cuts due to their inability to provide sufficient electricity to power the air-conditioning required to extract the excess heat from their PC-equipped offices!
Further information on this topic can be obtained from the UN Forum on Environment and Development UNED, or the UK site on the implementation of Agenda21 at Project PlanetEye which is constructed on Eco-friendly RISCOS computers!
Solo will be offered with a number of different LCD display options. These are expected to include:-
Touch-screen. It is likely that some models will be supplied with optional touch-screen technology, which will display an on-screen
keyboard if one is not already plugged into the main unit.
The Solo prototype being admired at a village near Kihihi, 80km south of the Equator. Notice the solar panel in the
foreground pointing almost directly up as it is 20 days before the equinox at 1pm!
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The Solo is intended to be used primarily by personnel working for organisations in remote regions, possibly village schools, missionary stations and clinics. It will also be of value to agriculturalists, health workers and NGO's who must remain away from their base for indefinable periods.
Documents may be written using the inbuilt word-processor, which will be Microsoft Word compatible. Emails can be constructed and stored in a queue.
As required, the Solo can be taken into a town with telephone access, where it can transfer emails across the Internet, and be connected to a desktop computer for the transfer of files and sharing access to a printer using an inbuilt utility.
Solo prototype being evaluated by Bishop George of Kigezi, Southern Uganda, and his Diocesan Planning Team.
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Solo is intended to be built by companies created for that purpose in Developing Countries. As such the exact specifications and range of options will remain the decision of each licensed manufacturer.
However guideline specifications are as follows:-
The rectangular casing used will differ between manufacturers. However initial discussions in Africa have suggested a carved wooden surround. This unit will not be required to
pass EC electro-magnetic radiation tests, although emissions are known to be very low. Real-ivory keyboards are not an option!
Intial costings suggest a base price commencing at $1000 (US) including basic RISCOS applications together with a word-processor (MS Word compatible), and a full internet suite.
Projected release date Qtr 3 2002, subject to satisfactory conclusion of negotiations for manufacturing licences with companies in the Developing World. Enquiries at this stage should be limited to potential manufacturers, Government representatives, NGO's, media and organisations required to achieve complience with Agenda 21 only.